Well, I did that after we lost to you in 2012. Agreed completely on the format. It's disappointing how much NBC/CBC spread out the series. It's the Conference Finals and it's being treated like the NBA. It hurts each series. I knew we would lose Game 3. That extra day benefited the Habs. Maybe this time around, it helps the Rangers with Brassard. My gut feeling is the Game 4 winner will advance. I am definitely concerned. Especially if Stepan can't go.
In 2000, I went for Dallas. But it would've been nice to see Buffalo beat them the year before. For LOTCB (Brian). Nobody has had it tougher than him. Neither of our sides have had to deal with as much heartache as Sabres fans. Same for Blues. They are mirror images. In 2003, I wanted Ottawa of course. But once you made it, I knew they wouldn't lose to Anaheim. Especially in Game 7.
Biggest rival? It depends who you ask. The old-time fan will say the Islanders. It's sad that they won't be on Long Island anymore. Barclays is not great. If you're going off recent history, it's the Devils. The hatred is pretty intense. But it's more Devils fans. Personally, I hate the Pens the most. That series game me more satisfaction than what they did in 2012. I can't stand them. The Crosby network. The league ignoring what their stars get away with. Mario Lemieux. They are the definition of loathsome. I can't respect guys like Neal and Kunitz. Crosby will never compare to Toews. He's not a true leader. Would a real superstar vanish as frequently as he has when teams play him tough? Don't forget the Flyers even though the first round series lacked emotion. It was weird.
I'm not sure I answered your question. But you might want to rethink how our fanbase feels towards the Pens.
I think with some teams, you have your long-time rivals, the Hadfields to your McCoys. For you, I think it's the Islanders...it doesn't matter if both teams are good, both are bad, or only one is relevant...the hatred is always there, and those games have a way of stirring up their fanbases. The Devils have become a similar entity for you for sure. That absurd regular-season unbeaten streak the Devils enjoyed at the Rangers' expense had to have added to the hatred on your side (just like the Devils losing to them in the playoffs in '92, '94 and '97 did to us).
On our side, I think it's the Rangers and the Flyers, especially since there's been a fair number of memorable playoff matchups over the last 20 years. I attended the elimination game in 2008, and it was beyond awful...Avery doing his thing and actually succeeding, Ranger fans coming into the building and taking over while the Devils fans in attendance just sat there and let it happen...just sucked on every level. One of my lowest and most disappointing moments as a Devils fan. I don't really let awful moments like that linger on and on, but 2008 (losing to the Rangers in five), 2009 (losing to the 'Canes in seven in murderously excruciating fashion), and 2010 (getting waxed by the Flyers in five) were rough...especially since each series looked very similar at times, with the Devils looking 2-3 steps slower than their opponent, unable to receive passes cleanly, looking easily overwhelmed. And when you factor in that the Devils were now meekly and almost routinely losing playoff series in five games (Flyers in 2004, 'Canes in the second round in 2006, Ottawa in 2007), though it's clearly always great to make the playoffs at all, the Devils had become a relatively easy out. And the less said about 2011 (10-29-2 first half), the better. 2012 and beating both the Flyers AND the Rangers in winning the Eastern Conference was almost NEEDED at that point. It allowed us all to wash the lingering bad tastes of 2004, 2008, and 2010 and the recent poor playoff performances out of our mouths, almost all at once. That season still would have been terrific no matter who the Devils faced to get to the SCF, but there was something very catharic about beating the Flyers and Rangers to get there.
Anyway, I think the Pens have kind of become a "short-term" rival for you. That can happen for a number of reasons...a particularly bloody playoff series, a succession of chippy games played against each other, a relatively high frequency of playoff matchups in a relatively short period of time, etc. At times for the Devils, that's been the Leafs, the 'Canes, the Senators...the ironic thing is the Devils have actually held their own against the Pens in the regular season, so much so that their fans were afraid of facing the Devils in the playoffs this season...though I don't like Crosby or the Pens (I hate that they just luck/tank their way into getting generational talents), I don't really put in them in the fierce rival category. The 'Canes have become a rival mostly by virtue of having beaten the Devils in the playoffs in 2002, 2006, and 2009...and I've never been a fan of Batboy Eric Staal. THAT'S a team the Devils really need to beat whenever they meet again in the playoffs, for sanity's sake.